Remaining calm in the middle of chaos.
Do-Chu-Sei as a concept comes from 3 Japanese characters:
- Do (動), as in movement,
- Chu (中), as in inside, center, and;
- Sei (静), as in silence, calm, stillness, or quietude.
This concept is used in Aikido to describe the state of “being calm while in motion” or, a state of “quietude in the midst of action”.
From Reactivity to Serenity
Some refer to this phenomenon as “zen in motion”. It is a mental poise expressed through the body’s movement. It is the ability to stay calm, still, and centered. This quality cannot be achieved overnight. It is a result of years and years of dedicated and sincere training. Some of us experience a flash of it every now and then, and lucky are the ones who have mastered maintaining a smooth and calm demeanor in the buffeting winds of uncertainty.
In Aikido, we seek to change our behavior from reactivity to serenity and internal fortitude. If you watch the older Aikido practitioners, people who have spent all their lives practicing Aikido, I urge you to look at their faces while they are doing their waza. They are looking but not looking. They do not seem to be focused on any one thing, yet they know exactly what is going on all the time. Try looking closely at their expressions, calm yet fully aware, they seem timeless and ageless, giving us glimpses of an enlightened peace.
It is important to keep the mind empty. One venue where we can gauge how we are doing in developing this concept is during taninzugake (multiple attacker practice). In the physical practice of taninzugake, one must not get caught up in the technique. Spontaneity is the name of the game.
You cannot say, “When he attacks, I will execute a sharp and elegant hijikime osae. Then after him , I can do a kotegaeshi on that one.” Instead,
You just let the technique come to you.
If you get caught up in the technique, you blunt your perception, delay your capacity to adapt, limit flexibility, and eventually, compromise your timing and your efficiency to deal with the attacks.
This thinking what to do and planning to do when you are already face-to-face with an attack might only take a split second, but it could turn out to be the split second difference between life and death. In the words of O’Sensei:
“Always imagine yourself on the battlefield under the fiercest attack; never forget this crucial element of training.”
Instead of thinking, it is better to open your mind and widen perception. Aikido training nurtures an expansion of awareness. By making the assessment and perception of the situation integral to the practitioner, we seek to make our movement instantaneous.
It is good to be reminded however that in all of this, all actions must be sincerely tempered by love, and not doing techniques out of anger, out of fear, out of insecurity and most especially, not because you are left with no choice. There is always a choice.
An Impeccable Foundation in the Basics (Kihon)
We cannot be discussing concepts all the time. Especially for beginners, basic movements, basic forms. Beginners should immerse themselves in the study of these; until the time comes that doing them is second nature. All techniques in Aikido are based on the basics. To achieve spontaneity and improve, we need to have a solid foundation to build from. The secrets of Aikido are revealed in the basic forms, if we know what to look for. The more a person trains, the less is left to chance.
We should also train in order to practice what we preach. I can write about all kinds of things here while discussing these concepts, but if in my practice I cannot express them physically, all my talk is worthless lip-service. Especially in Aikido, I strongly believe that being able to do what you say is the most fundamental proof of understanding. Understanding begins with the basics; and without understanding, you can never improve.
When a person has prepared well for something, he has done everything he can. When it matters, he can rest assured of this fact, and will find it easier to remain calm, let go of doubts and fears, trust his training, and act. In the words of Louis Pasteur:
“Fortune favors the prepared mind.”
Regular training gives you courage to calmly face the unknown. There is no substitute to practice and regular training, especially with regard to basic forms.
The only constant is change. The reality is, we have very little control of anything and everything that happens to us. It is wiser, then, to break free from trying to control things and instead, focus on how to skillfully adapt to change. The state of Do-Chu-Sei is not a momentary disposition. This quality is supposed to be part of a person’s character, inside and outside the mats. It is a result of having a spirit that is at peace with nature, at peace with movement, and at peace with change.
On the mats and in real life, possessing the ability to anchor on a stable center within us is key to achieving this internal calm. We should always be connected with our center, our “Inner Stillness”. This ability to remain centered in the middle of the surrounding disarray is the essence of Do-Chu-Sei, of moving meditiation. It is the day-to-day expression of inner peace.